Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My life in the bush of snarks

The Admirable Mister Carroll would have his little surprises for The Hunting of the Snark certainly seems nothing but surprises. Of course, aside from certain unfortunate mishaps, such as sudden insanity or total annihilation, most of Mister Carroll’s Snarkian surprises tend towards the cheerily nonsensical and comfortably numb variety.

This is because he was a master craftsman and knew full well that a bit of well-oiled authorial surprise keeps the groundlings happy enough to stick through the heavy going of the more intellectual bits, such as plot or thematic development. (Mister Burton, are you taking notes?)

Like revenge or cheap plonk, surprise is best served cold, and so we’ll stick to Carroll’s master plan and introduce the final member of our Fellowship of the Snark as Carroll did … vaguely, mysteriously, even confusingly …

He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
With his name painted clearly on each:
But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
They were all left behind on the beach.

The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
He had seven coats on when he came,
With three pairs of boots — but the worst of it was,
He had wholly forgotten his name.

Do not be alarmed by the curious fact that the above drawing depicts Our Mystery Snark-Hunter’s 42 boxes on the beach as being labeled with the Chinese ideogram for "candlestub" known as “xié”. Simply remain calm while I remind you that our Mystery Snarkistadore's alias of “candlestub” will be revealed at a later date. And do not panic if you happen to know that the boxes and the girl with the fan are directly taken from one of Carroll’s own photographs, a portrait of Alexandra “Xie” Kitchins posing as an off-duty Chinese tea merchant.

Keep your cool, dear reader, even if the gentleman at the easel should prove to be the late and sorely missed British author Douglas Adams, whose Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy proved conclusively that the Answer to the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything In It is 42. Above all, take no notice of the curious coincidence of the painting of a box that he is working at. It is labeled with a variation upon Magritte’s famous anti-dictum, “this is not my box” and is itself a play upon the Belgian’s seminal work, The Human Condition I.

It cannot harm you, simply move around it cautiously whilst noting the utter absence of the seven coats and six boots mentioned in the verses. They are unworthy of inclusion in this drawing, owing to the fact that since the clothes make the man, the commutative principle of haute couture allows the man to make the clothes. Therefore, the sartorial and ontological nudity of this man (still un-named, un-manned and un-drawn) is his own lookout. No doubt, if left alone, nature will have its way and his coats and boots would multiply and eventually replenish his wardrobe (the commutative spirit of Victorian men's fashion was biblically fecund) and he will find himself the proud possessor of 42 coots and boats. QED, eh?

Surprise and anticipation, the twin bogeymen of Nonsense poets and Hollywood scriptwriters alike! Stay tuned, dear readers, for next week's exciting episode!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snarkin’ down under

Cry havoc and let slip the hunters of Snark! Eschewing your petty considerations of "written texts" and "logic" we slide comfortably into the heavy, lead-weighted boots of the Butcher … or as he’s better known to Snarkologists — the Frankensnark!

The Butcher started off in life as a lower-case butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia and through steady application rose through the ranks of Victorian society to become the notorious Tichborne Claimant. We see the Butcher, above, as he appeared to the Fellowhip of the Snark, his well-inked, crystalline noggin filled with but one idea, that of Snark.

And there in lies our story, the saddest story I’ve ever told, in fact … you see, several years of debauchery behind the cold-cuts display in Wagga Wagga left the Butcher looking a trifle plush, so much so that he was forced to conceal his considerable girth behind the name of Arthur Orton, and when pressed too hard, he would even emit a squeaky, rubbery-duck sort of noise that sounded suspiciously like Tom Castro.

He continued on as a butcher until he worked his way further up the British food chain to Sir Roger Charles Tichborne, a sort of proto-Bertie Wooster lost at sea as the result of navigating with a perfect and absolute blank of a mind. Tichborne’s elderly mother, suitably impressed by the startling resemblance between her epicene, educated and polylingual long-lost son and the obese, crass and monolingual Butcher, promptly welcomed him back into the well-upholstered bosom of the family.

Things would have been quite jolly for Butcher and Mum if some nosey-parkers hadn’t upset things and started a court case, claiming that this Butcher-Orton-Castro-Tichborne wallah was not whom he claimed to be! Things came to a pretty sad end for B-O-C-T, for to be honest, he both looked and acted the part of an incredible dunce to perfection and was eventually defrocked, denamed and deprived of his liberty.

This illustrator has chosen to flesh out the Butcher as an Easter Island moia, another antipodean enigma with beady little eyes that always look the opposite way and appear unaccountably shy, especially when any beavers heave into view. Could it be that Mister Castro is somewhat put out by the mere presence of his anagrammatized nemesis, Castor? Or is it because this illustrator simply can’t be bothered to draw expressions and prefers instead to guzzle lager on the beach whilst his Assamese nautch-girl-cum-receptionist throws another snark on the barbie?

NB. Special thanks to Doug Howick, whose correspondence and thoughts on the Butcher were very helpful.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Snarkhunters' profiles in whiskey courage

For the past few weeks, we have been dishing up the dirt on each of the ten members of the Fellowship of the Snark. This week’s dish is the Beaver, the only Canadian member of the crew, the only female, and the only whiskey drinker …


HOME : Pacing on the deck, making lace in the bow, anywhere but Mississauga.

AGE : 42, eh? Sexier in French, though … quarante-deux, euh?

PROFESSION : Hunting the Snark in a safely multicultural, environmentally-friendly and totally rapturous Canadian way whilst ensuring that there are no dismal surprises.

HOBBIES : Let’s see … chewing export-grade softwood lumber, lacing and pacing (see above), saving ‘em all from wreck, I dunno, sometimes I lose count.

LAST BOOK READ : The Hunting of the Snark, but all in pictures for kids who can't read good and wanna learn to do other stuff good too.

LAST ACCOMPLISHMENT : Procuring a second-hand dagger-proof coat and insuring my life in some office of note because a certain somebody won’t convey another certain somebody in a separate ship.

QUOTE : "I’ve learnt in ten minutes far more nonsense than all books would have taught me in seventy years".

PROFILE : Counts with her fingers, likes it all in a "popular style" … just your average girl-next-door thinking of nothing but Snark …

SCOTCH : Cutty Snark, what else? Cheers!

NB. The management wishes to apologize for the incorrect font on the illo. It should have been Scotch Bell but our flying-monkey-cum-ninja-typesetter was too lazy to load it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spare a penny, guv’nor, for a snark (cough, cough) who’s seen the wars?

We continue our on-going exposé of the Fellowship of the Snark with the Banker …

… a Banker, engaged at enormous expense,
Had the whole of their cash in his care.

The Admirable Carroll devoted an entire Fit to the Banker, the notorious Banker’s Fate of Fit the Seventh in which this paladin of capitalism was reduced to busking for rupees on the streets of Old Delhi — a visual scandal for which the Dear Reader must wait till this fall, when he can purchase our version of The Hunting of the Snark from Melville House and grovel over the relevant drawings to his heart’s content.

In the meantime, we shall enjoy this optical bon-bon shown above, which depicts the Banker in his cage as he

… endorsed a blank cheque (which he crossed),
And changed his loose silver for notes.

Those of our readers who have ever been employed as buskers in a British financial establishment or even as Belgian Surrealist painting sanitizers will instantly spot the significance of the Banker endorsing a blank check and then crossing it, a bit of complex British financial skulduggery involving a stale and phlegmish sight gag redolent of the vaudevillian buffoonery of certain other, far more talented artist.

However, those of our readers who can employ their cognitive skills to better purposes will brush all of that aside and demand to see the management. What the blazes is going on here, they will sputter over their breakfast kippers and stocking’d tart, there’s a d***** bolshevik in my Snark!

Alas, they are correct! Our Banker is being played by none other than Karl Marx and I’m afraid there’s nothing we can do about it. You see, what we have here is a collection of disparate Victorian stock characters hunting an imaginary beast, a beast of a bogey-man, one might say. One might further add that without this bogey-man our B-Boyz would be unemployed and reduced to busking toute de suite; a similar situation to 20th-century Capitalism’s stormy relationship with its favorite bogey-man, Karl Marx.

Of course, this artist is not suggesting for one moment that the entire globalized, capitalistic network of intricate financial arrangements which is currently wreaking such havoc on so many lives can in any way be compared to High Nonsense. As the Americans say, that would be beyond my pay-grade. Gosh-darn-it, I’m just a plain ol’ artist — another college-educated busker working the subway platforms of Capitalism.

NB. Attention, fellow ink-stained wretches — A Journey Round My Skull is putting on a Raymond Roussel illustration contest … a copy of Locus Solus is the prize, that and Eternal Glory, of course. The mind boggles, eh, Martial?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Boojum upon my forehead …

This week’s episode of The Hunting of the Snark is pleased to present you with Contestant Number Six, the Billiard-Marker!

When the Billiard-Marker is not busying himself keeping score in Victorian pool-halls, he’s available for cameo, walk-on roles in such popular thrillers as Conan Doyle’s "The Greek Interpreter ", where he appeared as an extra in a scene involving Sherlock Holmes, Mycroft Holmes and the Boots (duly noted by Martin Gardner, the Herodotus of Snarkology).

Keen-eyed Snark watchers will also remember his scene-stealing appearance in Fit the Fourth of the Hunting of the Snark, where he chalked the tip of the Bonnet’s nose, with hilariously predictable results as we can see in the illustration above.

In his spare time, the Billiard-Marker enjoys gardening, cooking, reading the novels of Pierre Loti and attending Carrollian events dressed up as Raymond Roussel, the French novelist and poet whom Louis Aragon dubbed "the president of the republic of dreams." The Billard-Marker has garnered numerous awards and citations for his pitch-perfect, Rousselian rendition of le non-sens haut

"I shall reach the heights; I was born for dazzling glory. It may be long in coming, but I shall have greater glory than that of Victor Hugo or Napoleon … This glory will reflect on all my works without exception; it will cast itself on all the events of my life … no author has been or can be superior to me … as the poet said, you feel a burning sensation at your brow. I felt once that there was a star at my brow and I shall never forget it."

The Billiard-Marker has been known to finish up his Rousselian "performances" by placing a hot casserole dish upon his head and then mailing electric heaters to any friends desiring souvenirs of tropical India, all whilst employing detective agencies to search out and hire suitable illustrators for an alexandrine, protohypertextual epic endowed with a crushing five-fold level of nesting texts.

We’ll be right back with our first question for the Billiard-Marker, after this important message …